Carla van der Sluijs reviews a musical adaptation of Tommy Wiseau’s ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ blockbuster The Room.


 

The Room: The Musical was distinctly odd right from the word go. In fact, the oddness began the moment I presented myself to the Box Office and was given, in place of a paper ticket, a small plastic spoon with a number stuck to the back of it. But then again, a show based on a film once described as ‘gloriously terrible’ is bound to be a bit strange.

For those out of the loop, The Room is a 2003 romantic drama that was written by, directed by and starred Tommy Wiseau. It follows the challenged relationship between Johnny and his girlfriend Lisa, but the storyline takes a definite backseat to the many flaws of the film. Various plot lines are introduced and then left hanging without any attempt at conclusion. The most famous of these is Lisa’s mother announcing she has breast cancer, only for this shocking news not to be mentioned again for the rest of the film. It is, to this day, unknown why Wiseau included a scene of the male characters playing football behind an apartment. When questioned about it in interviews, he only laughs wryly and mutters that football is fun. Entire scenes are out of focus because the camera lenses went unchecked, which is combined with embarrassingly out-of-sync dubbing. And don’t even get started on the endless continuity errors. The Room is popular in midnight screenings where audience members yell the famous lines with the actors, including Wiseau’s despairing cry of “You’re tearing me apart Lisa!” I later discovered the reasoning behind my bizarre ticket: due to a panic decision to re-furnish the set, photos of plastic spoons are randomly framed around the living room of Johnny and Lisa’s apartment, meaning fans throw plastic spoons at the screen during particularly naff sections. The film has become so legendary that in St Andrews a second performance of this musical adaptation had to be added due to popular demand.

The show began with a strong and humorous opening number setting us straight in the heart of San Francisco. Cheesy grins and choreography fired up the performance, which made for an exciting and engaging start.  However, not all the songs packed this much of a punch. Though they were written with some hysterical lyrics, the music sometimes felt jarring and interruptive which, combined with varied singing abilities across the cast, limited their impact.

It is unfortunately not possible to give credit to individual talents as all credits on the programme were attributed to the one and only Tommy Wiseau. However, the actor playing said man had absolutely nailed his impression. The audience were frequently roaring over his famous speech patterns and particular credit should go to his laugh, which matched Wiseau’s famed chuckle perfectly. My favourite moments of the show were when Wiseau presented monologues, out of his onscreen character, to relay his motives behind the film (it wasn’t created as a joke-really!). He also recounted some reactions from the critics, including one who described his film as ‘a car accident’. Another stand-out character was Mark and his exaggerated dopiness received regular laughs. Though acting was generally strong, performances sometimes seemed robotic and forced, though this may have been intended to mirror the faults of the film. Staging was extremely static and the actors spent too much time standing in one place. Their positioning was successfully reminiscent of the film, but, to be brought to the stage, more movement needed adding to scenes.

The simple set was effective and sufficiently recreated Johnny and Lisa’s apartment without over-crowding the stage. Despite this, blackout scene changes were uncomfortably long and caused a couple of nervous giggles in the auditorium. The scenes could also have used more definitive conclusions, but this may, again, have been an effort to replicate the original Wiseau film, which is famed for its trailing and unfinished narratives.

The Room: The Musical was a fun and humorous evening for both die-hard fans of the original and those with limited knowledge of it. This was mostly thanks to how cleverly the performance both ridiculed and celebrated the movie in equal measure. The transition from screen to stage may have been a little bumpy, but the awkward and dysfunctional nature of Wiseau’s drama was captured brilliantly. Much like the film, ‘The Room: The Musical’ had its flaws, but I would still gladly return for a second viewing.

 

Carla van der Sluijs